I've been playing Pokken Tournament pretty religiously since it released on the Wii U, and have been excitedly awaiting the Switch's DX version's launch for the past few months. After a week or so of play, it's time to impart some nuggets of fighting wisdom.
Here are a few quick tips for getting the most out of Pokken Tournament DX, whether you're new to the game entirely, or just new to the Switch port.
Fighting Game Term Glossary
Zoning - Creating, then maintaining, a set distance between you and your opponent. This can prevent the opponent from hitting you with specific attacks, while also allowing you to control the pace of combat. It's about using space to control how your opponent has to play.
Synergy Burst - The term Pokken Tournament DX uses for its energy meter. This meter allows you to power up your character and perform your most powerful move.
Stun - When an attack hits you, your character may not be able to attack for a few seconds. Usually, the stunned character does not take damage while stunned. Burst Mode allows you to avoid getting stunned by weak attacks.
Phase Shifts - Pokken Tournament DX matches take place in two phases, one where you have full 3D movement and one where you fight on a 2D plane. Moving between these is triggered by specific strong attacks, and changes the way your character controls. Phase Shifts are when you switch from one of these modes to the other, with a dramatic camera shift.
Pressure - Attacking up-close without leaving gaps, so that your opponent has minimal chances to respond or react.
Don't ignore the tutorial
While it's always tempting to jump right into a new fighting game and work it out as you go along, Pokken Tournament DX has a really robust tutorial, ranging from begginner basics to explaining more high level techniques. The tutorials are all optional, but I highly recommend playing through them all. They explain a few unique quirks of the Pokken fighting system, and have a really natural learning curve leading up to techniques you can't work out through button mashing alone.
It's vital that you understand the Rock, Paper, Scissors system as early as possible
Grabs beat counters, counters beat normals, and normals beat grabs. It sounds simple, but you need to not only know this attack triangle so well it becomes muscle memory, but you need to practice recognising which of the three your enemy is doing at any given time so you can react on instinct. If you practice nothing else in Pokken, make sure you absolutely nail this triangle and know how your favourite attacks fit into it.
Force yourself to play consecutive matches as every character
Considering Pokken Tournament DX is based on Pokemon, it's fairly likely you'll go in with a favourite fighter. That's natural, and pretty common with fighting game rosters, but it's really worth playing a few consecutive matches with every fighter, whether you think you'll like them or not. Several characters behave differently in Pokken DX to the way they do in the mainline RPGs, so you may find an unexpected new favourite or not get with a character you normally love. If nothing else, playing as each and every character will give you an idea of their strengths and weaknesses, which makes them much easier to defeat down the line.
Support Pokemon may be overwhelming. Take your time, and look to fill in main Pokemon gaps
Unlike the Wii U version of Pokken Tournament, DX starts with all support Pokemon pairings unlocked from the start. That's a lot of support Pokemon to learn about all at once. Don't be afraid to take your time, sit and read through what each of them do, and work out which ones fill in the holes in your strategy. You might feel pressured to rush and pick your support pair on the fly, but you can find lengthy breakdowns online that come without that timing pressure. Don't be afraid to read up.
Remember you can dodge and block, even on Burst attacks
Dodges and blocks are your friends, but they're often forgotten about by new players overwhelmed by the rest of the combat system. Jumps can close the gap between you and your enemy while avoiding attacks, blocks can protect you from all but charged counters, and you can even dodge or block your way out of the biggest, flashiest Burst attacks your enemy might throw at you.
Turn off the tips NPC as soon as possible to avoid information overload and poor advice
As default in Pokken Tournament DX, you'll get tips mid-gameplay from your mentor Nia. Nia means well, but as a default, she's set to give you the maxium amount of advice possible at all times. Her advice pop-ups can be invasive mid-fight, are often repetitive, and do not have the accuracy of a human fighting game mentor. Sometimes she'll criticise things you didn't actually do. It's worth turning down the frequency of her advice, or turning her off, early in the game.
Don't stress about the top end skills until you're got the basics rock-solid
This might sound like obvious advice, but don't try to run before you know how to walk. Ensure you know combos and the attack triangle inside out before you try a counter attack dash cancel, or a frame-accurate safe move punish. These higher-level techniques are useful to learn, but they're nowhere near as important as rock-solid fundamentals.
Synergy Burst negates weak attack stun. You can use this to close the distance and throw out heavy attacks
It's easy to get distracted by the allure of pulling off a cinematic special attach, but don't overlook how useful this time can be for pulling off effective normal attacks. When in Burst mode, you can't be stunned by weak attacks, which gives you a perfect oportunity to close the distance on your opponent and land combos involving heavy attacks. While these combos can normaly be too slow to be effective, in Burst mode you've got a great opportunity to do some big normal damage unimpeded.
Charge a counter for a piercing attack to break through a block
Blocks on Pokken Tournament DX are pretty powerful, with little to no chip damage applied while guarding. If you're up against a stubborn block, you can fully charge a counter attack to give it piercing properties, breaking through the block. Even if you never do this yourself, it's important to recognise a charged counter if you're blocking, and jump out the way as soon as you can.
You can recover some HP via phase shifts or synergy bursts
Much like, say, Bloodborne, you can actually recover some lost health during combat in Pokken DX. If you see a section of your health bar is dark green, that health can be recovered by either collecting Burst Synergy energy, or by being the player to initiate a phase shift. However, be on the look out, because if your opponent is the one to activate a phase shift, your health will cease to be recoverable.
Online play will be flooded with the new characters. Learn to beat them first.
Considering Pokken Tournament DX has a handful of new characters which were not present in the Wii U version of the game, you can bet there will be a lot of players wanting to put time in on them when the game first launches. You'll want to learn how to beat the new characters fast.
How to beat Crogunk
Crogunk excels at zone control, so your best bet is to take them on with a fast and agile character who has the flexibility to get in close and do damage. Any slow, lumbering character will have to work extra hard to get into position and attack safely. If you're not careful, he can zone you out, dealing damage with no risk to himself.
Crogunk is incredibly fast, but his weakness is that some of his attacks rely on a random number generator. Watch out for attacks that fail to execute as planned, and capitalise on those moments to get in and do damage. If you can get close, stay in close and don't let up the pressure.
How to beat Darkrai
Darkrai's danger is in its versatility, in that it has a mix of moves for both zoning and for up-close. Rushing in close and applying pressure alone won't be enough to keep this Pokemon pinned down. Flexibility is the key to taking down Darkrai, so get used to walking the fine line between close range and zoning. Work out where the dividing line is between those two attack ranges, and try to pop back and forth either side of it so that Darkrai has to constantly reassess what move will hit. Make its versatility a burden and keep your opponent guessing which of their moves are right to use.
How to beat Empoleon
Empoleon has a frankly shockingly slow walk speed, but this doesn't mean it's lacking in mobility thanks to a suite of moves that can very quickly close ground at high speed. What this character lacks in short-range movement speed, it more than makes up for in long-range movement. It's easy to assume you can keep Empoleon zoned out, but one quick dash across the floor and it can be in melee attack range. He's not great at zoning or grabbing, but if it gets in close it'll deal very hefty damage. Be on the lookout for when it's trying to close range, and be prepared to punish it or move out of its way. Empoleon can be on you before you know it.
How to beat Scizor
Scizor is a very combo-heavy, technically tough character to use, but he packs a strong power heft and decent speed to compensate. His moves all chain together in ways that, if done perfectly, are tough to counter, but do have openings that can be exploited if you spot them. Try and prevent it starting a combo in the first place by zoning, being careful to block early attacks in chains, and playing on the defensive. Be agile, keep out of its way, and attack when it screws up a combo attempt.
How to beat Decidueye
Lastly, Decidueye excells at arial maneuvers, speed, and attacks that punish careless run-ins. When trying to close the gap, don't be too committed; be ready to dodge or jump back if things get hairy. If you're going for an attack with a big wind up at close range, be sure you have the opening for it or you're going to pay for it fast.